To directly improve and enrich the cultural lives of the 1.2 million deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals who live in the Los Angeles area by providing exposure and access to professional theater, filling a void for deaf artists and audiences; To serve as an institution for the discovery and exploration of artists' identities and stature; To create, share and preserve a legacy of deaf culture through the medium of Sign Language Theatre.
Deaf West Theatre (DWT) productions feature deaf and hearing actors joining onstage to tell stories in a seamless ballet of movement, American Sign Language (ASL) and spoken - or sung - English. In addition to offering deaf theatergoers unparalleled access to these cultural events, we greatly influence mainstream perspectives of the culture and ability of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. Recognized as the premiere sign language theater in the U.S., DWT consistently sets the standard of innovation for inclusive theatrical experiences of the highest quality.
With the most theater production awards of any deaf theater in the nation, DWT was the first intimate theater company in the history of the LA Stage Ovation Awards to win both Best Play (A Streetcar Named Desire) and Best Musical (Oliver!) in the same year (2000). That same year, we won the distinguished "Polly Warfield Award for Most Outstanding Season" from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle. In recognition of DWT's bi-lingual and bi-cultural educational programming, Artistic Director Ed Waterstreet accepted the International Fete d ‘Excellence Gold Medal Award for Cultural Education in Theatre in Geneva, Switzerland in 2002. With our groundbreaking musical adaptation Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, we popularized the ASL musical form with two major Southern California productions, a national tour, and a Broadway run which earned two Tony nominations and a Tony Honor for Excellence in 2003 among other awards and accolades too numerous to mention. In October 2005, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services selected DWT for the Secretary's Highest Recognition Award for "bridging the gap between the deaf and hearing through theater." The awards and attention we’ve received stand as testament to the passions and talents behind the ensemble as well as the organization's capacity to sustain excellence over the past 20 years.
DWT also co-produces plays with regional theaters, Broadway houses and touring companies to present major productions of ASL adapted works. In January 2009, we collaborated with Los Angeles’ prestigious Center Theatre Group on a sign language adaptation of the Tony Award winning musical Pippin which premiered at the newly renovated Mark Taper Forum.
Concurrent with our productions, Dramatic Gestures outreach program increases literacy levels and raises awareness about Deaf culture with the Los Angeles school system. Annually, our productions offer performances for middle and high school students, which provide students with access to professional theater and direct contact with theatrical professionals. In-School Workshop residencies, in which a deaf teaching artist serves as a role model and educator to students, are 10-weeks in duration. ASL Story Time sessions take place in elementary classrooms and feature deaf teaching artists telling beloved children's stories in ASL. These efforts provide meaningful learning opportunities that support classroom curricula for over 1,500 elementary to high school students annually. Through orientation workshops and standards-based study guides provided by DWT, teachers receive resources that help support their classroom objectives.
In addition, we play a supportive role within the theater community by promoting full access to deaf and hard of hearing audiences to theater as an art form. We often offer sign language theater experts to work with companies around the U.S. to provide hands-on assistance for their productions.